School: Southern Illinois University of EdwardsvilleMajor: Construction Management with minor in Business AdministrationCompany: Signature Construction, LLCInternship from 5/18/15 — 8/7/15
During three months of an incredible opportunity, I had the privilege to travel across the country and work on apartment complexes in both Aurora and Loveland, Colorado. My employer, Signature Construction, is a general contractor out of Indianapolis, Indiana that specializes in overseeing the construction of multi-family units for government housing residents.
My job title was Assistant Superintendent and I helped manage a 16 building, 220 unit, 32 million dollar project. The buildings were either 8, 12, or 16 units and contained either 1, 2, or 3 bedrooms per unit. There were approximately 65 employees on the job site and it was part of my duty to help oversee all of those workers. I worked with a superintendent and two of his assistants to ensure quality control, correct scheduling, timely finishes, and efficient working while enforcing correct safety practices.
With the view of snow capped mountains in the background, it was my responsibility to start each day with a safety inspection. Lulls, cranes, personal protection equipment, scaffolds, ladders, etc. had to be examined daily to ensure that both Signature Construction and OSHA standards were being followed. After inspecting and correcting any faults, I would then document any safety hazards that were found. Following the safety inspection, I then spent most of the day continuously strolling the site. While doing so, I answered questions from contractors, reported any new information to my bosses, checked the quality of people’s’ work, and did my best to keep workers motivated and on track. Often times it was my duty to call in for inspectors and then to walk buildings with them once they arrived. A majority of the technical things I learned this summer came from walking with those inspectors. I learned a huge amount of codes and they often explained how certain things functioned and why they needed to be in certain locations.
Walking the site and observing different trades as well as seeing inspections first hand was by far the best experience an intern can receive.
What results did you achieve on the project(s), and what impact did they have on the company?
Coming into the internship, I had almost no construction experience. However, within the first couple of weeks I had learned more than I have in three years of college combined.
Not only did I learn the process of construction, but I learned some key components of how and how not to manage it. One of the main things I achieved was having the entire job site completely under my control for an entire week. Signature Construction’s office decided to pull all of the superintendents and their assistants back to Indianapolis in order to conduct a safety training/midterm meeting. By doing so, this left ME in charge of the 32 million dollar project all by myself. Going into a week full of pressure and responsibility, I was confident that I could overcome the challenge and prove to my superiors that I was capable. Right off the bat, people began asking questions, deliveries were being made, inspectors needed to be called in, people needed material, and foreman were calling for me nonstop. At first it all seemed chaotic and I thought I was going to drop the ball, but each day I gained back a little more confidence. By the end of the week, the 21 year old, new intern was showing up early to work eager to achieve that day’s tasks and overcome any obstacles that stood in the way. I assume that I was one of few, if any, interns across the nation to be handed an entire multi-million dollar project to manage solely on their own.
Not only did I complete the week, but I was told by several of the tradesmen that I was more useful than the superintendent. Astonishingly, I had multiple men tell me what a good job I had done and that they were impressed by my abilities to take on such a huge task with so much responsibility. Although nothing major was completed in my week of control, I was able to help the company by keeping the job on track without needing someone else there. Instead of having the site operate without a manager and taking the chance of complete chaos breaking out, the company counted on me to keep the ball rolling. It was an opportunity of a lifetime that only a handful of interns can say they have experienced.
What real-life technical or business skills did you learn during the internship?
Over the months, I learned a variety of traits that I will embrace wherever my career takes me. However, the most important business characteristic of construction management that I learned was how and how not to communicate among tradesmen and coworkers. While in Colorado, I worked with two different superintendents that both struggled to communicate effectively with those who needed the most effective communication.
The first of the two was lackadaisical and often did not respond in a timely manner if at all to some contractors’ needs. Foreman would approach him with questions and lists for needed materials and he would sometimes lie or delay their needs days at a time for no reason. In comparison, the other superintendent was hot headed and often snapped as well as cursed at both foreman and his assistants.
Being side by side with the project’s head guy, I witnessed numerous important conversations. Each time I saw either of the superintendents communicate in negative ways I thought to myself how I would do it differently. I observed multiple confrontations and I took note of how not to respond to people who you need to have high motivation and may later need favors from.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
Throughout the summer I had a variety of positive things affect me. I was able to live on my own for the first time, I got to travel and hang out in the mountains weekly, I made a lot of money, and most importantly, I was able to experience one of the best internships possible.
During the internship I learned more about construction than I could ever imagine. From scheduling to finishing details, I had the opportunity to learn the entire process first hand from start to finish. Not only did I learn the process of construction, but I learned methods of how to manage it.
Now that I have such high confidence in my abilities, I feel comfortable in pursuing anything I want. The internship experience that I received has given me hope that I am set for whatever will come next. If that’s not the sole purpose and main objective of an internship then I don’t know what is. This opportunity was the best of the best and I can guide my life and career path in any direction now because of it.
Where do you think technology will make the biggest impact in construction in the next few years, and how will it do that?
In the next few years, technology will make a major impact in the construction industry. There are already big changes in going from hand-drawn and hard copies to digital visuals. Hours worth of time are wasted trying to flip through plans to find the correct drawings. Therefore, Signature Construction along with other companies are in the process of replacing the project’s plans/drawings with a flat screen TV where tradesmen can view different files digitally without having to flip through the plans. The picture on the screen is projected from the computer, allowing the employees to simply type in different file names for a quick find.
Not only will workers be able to view plans via the TV, but I believe companies will have iPads out in the field so that constructors will be able to see how things are supposed to look right there at the location. Being able to see detailed images would be extremely beneficial in order to compare reality with the projected plan. Programs with these digital capabilities have already been created, therefore, it’s only a matter of time before the technology is dispensed throughout the industry.